Windows

How do I... Add image thumbnails to Microsoft Windows Explorer?

By Mark Kaelin

XP Folder Options - View

This gallery is also available as a TechRepublic blog post and download.

When you are dealing with a folder in Microsoft Windows containing numerous images, it is often very helpful to see thumbnail representations of those images in the Windows Explorer display. This built-in functionality is available in both Windows XP and Windows Vista, but how you turn the feature off and on is slightly different for each version. This TechRepublic How do I... explains how to turn on the thumbnail feature and how to change the layout of Windows Explorer to accommodate the thumbnail images when they are active.

One caveat for the resource sensitive users out there -- turning on the thumbnail feature will increase the amount of resources being used by the operating system. Those little thumbnails take up space on the hard drive and in memory when they are being displayed. Depending on your system, the available resources, and the number of images involved, you can quickly bog down your PC if you are not careful. This is why, many users will be interested in this tip for the opposite reason -- they want to know how to turn thumbnail creation off in Windows. Either way, this How do I... will help.

Windows XP
Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder of images for which you would like to see thumbnails. On the Windows Explorer menu click Tools | Folder Options to get to the control panel. Click the View tab.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

10 comments
harryhill2475
harryhill2475

In 7-64-TOOLS/Folder Options gives you that choice. About the second option down.

edems
edems

I was disappointed that windows 7 doesn't provide thumnails. I searched the Internet and came up with a codec pack that you can load to fix it. Its $14.95. but it fixes the problem and adds other functionality as well. http://www.fastpictureviewer.com/codecs/ It works with windows 7 64 bit too. Microsoft should have fixed this in win7. but this workaround solved it for me. I don't have a month to figure out a free method, if one exists.

alpenator
alpenator

I used to see a miniature image of a file in thumbnails (or sldide show) Now all I see is a generic icon (from Nero, I believe) How can I restore my images PLEASE. I have tried all the 'usual' fixes of associations and thumbnail cache unchecking. None work

vbrucewhitehead
vbrucewhitehead

There is a blatant ERROR in the article, namely: if you check "Do Not Cache Thumbnails" it just means they will not be stored on your hard drive, but they will still be created each time you open an image folder for which thumbs are supported, although without creating "thumbs.db" permanent system file storage headaches.

puppet
puppet

Mark - If you ever come back and read these posts, HELP! Ever since I did the required upgrade to XP SP3, my thumbnails have been turned off. I'd looked high and low before finding this from you, and it helped for SOME files - .pdf, .mpg, .mov and .wmv siles. That got me halfway there, but not all the way. Windows Explorer still does not display .jpg, .gif or .tif files. I also don't see .bmp files, but can't recall if they ever displayed, anyway. I have thousands of these and not having the thumbnails is a HUGE handicap in finding image files. Is there something else I can do?

credmedia
credmedia

A tiny utility in VuePrint called VueIcons will make the majority of image files display thumbnails irrespective of the 'view' chosen. The worst you can do is try it - I've been using it for years on many flavours of Windows and it works great. http://www.hamrick.com/upg.html

ashea
ashea

This is a great tip - it allows you to see wonderful pictures on each of your folders ...

dugz48
dugz48

If this box is checked there will be no thumbnails, so if you want thumbnails you will want to check it huh!!!

d.s.williams
d.s.williams

It is certainly the case in Vista that the thumbnails for folders can be misleading. I notice this, in particular, for my camera's SD card. I put it in to get the pictures off it one day and the folder thumbnail shows a realistic view of what is in the folder. If I then move all the pictures out of that folder, but leave the folder on the card, next time I put it in the card reader the thumbnail is exactly the same as it was before, even though the folder does not contain the original images, but entirely different ones. Evidently the cache is not updated automatically, although I presume it is still possible to manually update it via the context sensitive menu (right click on the folder) as was the case in XP?

gfhavewala
gfhavewala

Just a typo. :-( Now that we know it, all's forgiven. :-)